Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guest Commentary: A NATIONAL STRATEGIC NARRATIVE - by Mr. Y - Part 1

What follows is part one of a three-part editorial on the future of America... and the changing face of the "American Dream." This article was penned by the mysterious "Mr. Y" - more on the enigmatic mr. Y later...

This Strategic Narrative is intended to frame our National policy decisions regarding investment, security, economic development, the environment, and engagement well into this century. It is built upon the premise that we must sustain our enduring national interests – prosperity and security – within a “strategic ecosystem,” at home and abroad; that in complexity and uncertainty, there are opportunities and hope, as well as challenges, risk, and threat. The primary approach this Strategic Narrative advocates to achieve sustainable prosperity and security, is through the application of credible influence and strength, the pursuit of fair competition, acknowledgement of interdependencies and converging interests, and adaptation to complex, dynamic systems – all bounded by our national values.

From Containment to Sustainment: Control to Credible Influence
For those who believe that hope is not a strategy, America must seem a strange contradiction of anachronistic values and enduring interests amidst a constantly changing global environment. America is a country conceived in liberty, founded on hope, and built upon the notion that anything is possible with enough hard work and imagination. Over time we have continued to learn and mature even as we strive to remain true to those values our founding fathers set forth in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

America’s national strategy in the second half of the last century was anchored in the belief that our global environment is a closed system to be controlled by mankind – through technology, power, and determination – to achieve security and prosperity. From that perspective, anything that challenged our national interests was perceived as a threat or a risk to be managed. For forty years our nation prospered and was kept secure through a strategy of containment (read: mutually assured destruction, or MAD - the editors). That strategy relied on control, deterrence, and the conviction that given the choice, people the world over share our vision for a better tomorrow. America emerged from the Twentieth Century as the most powerful nation on earth. But we failed to recognize that dominance, like fossil fuel, is not a sustainable source of energy. The new century brought with it a reminder that the world, in fact, is a complex, open system – constantly changing. And change brings with it uncertainty. What we really failed to recognize, is that in uncertainty and change, there is opportunity and hope.

It is time for America to re-focus our national interests and principles through a long lens on the global environment of tomorrow. It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement. We must recognize that security means more than defense, and sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests and interdependencies. To grow we must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries, and that a winner does not demand a loser. We must regain our credibility as a leader among peers, a beacon of hope, rather than an island fortress. It is only by balancing our interests with our principles that we can truly hope to sustain our growth as a nation and to restore our credibility as a world leader. As we focus on the opportunities within our strategic environment, however, we must also address risk and threat. It is important to recognize that developing credible influence to pursue our enduring national interests in a sustainable manner requires strength with restraint, power with patience, deterrence with detente. The economic, diplomatic, educational, military, and commercial tools through which we foster that credibility must always be tempered and hardened by the values that define us as a people.

Our Values and Enduring National Interests
America was founded on the core values and principles enshrined in our Constitution and proven through war and peace. These values have served as both our anchor and our compass, at home and abroad, for more than two centuries. Our values define our national character, and they are our source of credibility and legitimacy in everything we do. Our values provide the bounds within which we pursue our enduring national interests. When these values are no longer sustainable, we have failed as a nation, because without our values, America has no credibility. As we continue to evolve, these values are reflected in a wider global application: tolerance for all cultures, races, and religions; global opportunity for self-fulfillment; human dignity and freedom from exploitation; justice with compassion and equality under internationally recognized rule of law; sovereignty without tyranny, with assured freedom of expression; and an environment for entrepreneurial freedom and global prosperity, with access to markets, plentiful water and arable soil, clean and abundant energy, and adequate health services.

From the earliest days of the Republic, America has depended on a vibrant free market and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit to be the engines of our prosperity. Our strength as a world leader is largely derived from the central role we play in the global economy. Since the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, the United States has been viewed as an anchor of global economic security and the U.S. dollar has served as an internationally recognized medium of exchange, the monetary standard. The American economy is the strongest in the world and likely to remain so well into the foreseeable future. Yet, while the dramatic acceleration of globalization over the last fifteen years has provided for the cultural, intellectual and social comingling among people on every continent, of every race, and of every ideology, it has also increased international economic interdependence and has made a narrowly domestic economic perspective an unattractive impossibility. Without growth and competition economies stagnate and wither, so sustaining America’s prosperity requires a healthy global economy. Prosperity at home and through global economic competition and development is then, one of America’s enduring national interests.

It follows logically that prosperity without security is unsustainable. Security is a state of mind, as much as it is a physical aspect of our environment. For Americans, security is very closely related to freedom, because security represents freedom from anxiety and external threat, freedom from disease and poverty, freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom of expression but also freedom from hurtful ideologies, prejudice and violations of human rights. Security cannot be safeguarded by borders or natural barriers; freedom cannot be secured with locks or by force alone. In our complex, interdependent, and constantly changing global environment, security is not achievable for one nation or by one people alone; rather it must be recognized as a common interest among all peoples. Otherwise, security is not sustainable, and without it there can be no peace of mind. Security, then, is our other enduring national interest.

Our Three Investment Priorities
As Americans we have access to a vast array of resources. Perhaps the most important first step we can take, as part of a National Strategy, is to identify which of these resources are renewable and sustainable, and which are finite and diminishing. Without doubt, our greatest resource is America’s young people, who will shape and execute the vision needed to take this nation forward into an uncertain future. But this may require a reawakening, of sorts. Perhaps because our nation has been so blessed over time, many of us have forgotten that rewards must be earned, there is no “free ride” – that fair competition and hard work bring with them a true sense of accomplishment. We can no longer expect the ingenuity and labor of past generations to sustain our growth as a nation for generations to come. We must embrace the reality that with opportunity comes challenge, and that retooling our competitiveness requires a commitment and investment in the future.

Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great. By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.

Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them. As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind. Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation approach to our domestic and foreign policies. This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure. For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy. This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. Security touches each of these and must be addressed by leveraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perceived threat a safe arm’s length away.

America is a resplendent, plentiful and fertile land, rich with natural resources, bounded by vast ocean spaces. Together these gifts are ours to be enjoyed for their majesty, cultivated and harvested for their abundance, and preserved for following generations. Many of these resources are renewable, some are not. But all must be respected as part of a global ecosystem that is being tasked to support a world population projected to reach nine billion peoples midway through this century. These resources range from crops, livestock, and potable water to sources of energy and materials for industry. Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.

Monday, April 11, 2011

DNA and Future Memory – part 2

DNA - Universal Intelligence Transmitter
From our current understanding, the functional basic unit of all life within universe is comprised of individual cells. The nucleus of each cell contains all the information necessary to create an exact replica of each form of life. This chemically encoded information is stored in a vast yet tiny archive known as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA is composed of chromosomes and genes that carry the blueprint or codes for every specific life form.

The classic depiction of DNA is the double helix, or two incredibly long intertwining molecules or polymer strands, composed of literally millions of bits of informational units (nucleotides). DNA is an amazingly stable archive that duplicates and transmits its blueprint in a transcription process from cell to cell, thereby procreating each life form on a cellular level. This process is identical for all life on earth, as well as (we presume) all life throughout universe.

This vast archive of information is passed along through a replicating process that involves the copying and encoding of genetic information from DNA to RNA (Ribonucleic acid).

The original DNA that is housed within the nucleus of a given cell programs instructions for the production of enzymes and proteins. These DNA instructions are not directly converted into proteins, but are copied into RNA. The DNA strand opens and allows RNA polymerase to transcribe only a single strand of DNA into a single stranded RNA polymer called messenger RNA. The messenger RNA carries the information to the sites of protein synthesis (ribosome), thereby creating a replica of the original DNA. This ensures that the information contained in the DNA does not become corrupted, thus preserving the archive.

Molecular biologists have identified large sections of the DNA strand that appears to serve no current purpose. The technical term that scientists use to refer to this dormant DNA is “junk”. It is not, however, junk or worthless filler. Given the miraculous complexity of this cellular archive, it seems highly unlikely that these sections of DNA serve no purpose. An intriguing theory for the purpose of the apparently dormant segments of the DNA archive is that these segments are not dormant, but act as tiny transmitters and receivers of cumulative knowledge.

The Web of Life
Throughout time, thinkers from a variety of different disciplines have put forth theories that propose an interconnectedness of all life. Anthropologist Jeremy Narby, author of The Cosmic Serpent - DNA & the Origins of Knowledge, suggests that this interconnected intelligence is contained within the DNA.

Intelligence comes from the Latin inter-legere, to choose between. There seems to be a capacity to make choices operating inside each cell in our body, down to the level of individual proteins and enzymes. DNA itself is a kind of "text" that functions through a coding system called "genetic code," which is strikingly similar to codes used by human beings. Some enzymes edit the RNA transcript of the DNA text and add new letters to it; any error made during this editing can be fatal to the entire organism; so these enzymes are consistently making the right choices; if they don't, something often goes wrong leading to cancer and other diseases.

Cells send one another signals, in the form of proteins and molecules. These signals mean: divide, or don't divide, move, or don't move, kill yourself, or stay alive. Any one cell is listening to hundreds of signals at the same time, and has to integrate them and decide what to do.

Some biologists describe DNA as an "ancient high biotechnology, containing "over a hundred trillion times as much information by volume as our most sophisticated information storage devices." Could one still speak of technology in these circumstances? Yes, because there is no other word to qualify this duplicable, information-storing molecule. DNA is only ten atoms wide and as such constitutes a sort of ultimate technology: It is organic and so miniturized that it approaches the limits of material existence.

How this intelligence operates is the question.

DNA is a single molecule with a double helix structure; it is two complementary versions of the same "text" wrapped around each other; this allows it to unwind and make copies of itself… twins! This twinning mechanism is at the heart of life since it began. Without it, one cell could not become two, and life would not exist. And, from one generation to the next, the DNA text can also be modified, so it allows both constancy and transformation. This means that beings can be the same and not the same.

One of the mysteries is what drives the changes in the DNA text in evolution. DNA has apparently been around for billions of years in its current form in virtually all forms of life. The old theory—random accumulation of errors combined with natural selection—does not fully explain the data currently generated by genome sequencing. The question is wide open.

All cells of all living things share this DNA system and communicate on a cellular level in exactly the same way. Individual species differ only in the sequencing of the genetic code within this common system. In terms of cellular reproduction, this system has worked flawlessly and identically for all living things for as long as life has been on Earth. Assuming that DNA is the blueprint/mechanism for all life in Universe, it is not a great intellectual stretch to consider that the segments of DNA, the function of which is not currently understood by science, may indeed be associated with a cellular information networking system. Is it not possible that this system, working universally in all life, possesses the ability to pass information from one life-form to another... from one species to another? Does it not make sense that this cumulative information would be accessible to ensure a successful future (evolution) for all species within the system (bio-sphere)?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Extra-Terrestrial Transmissions - Dark Satellite in orbit around Saturn - Updated


China's Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) announced Thursday that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory has been monitoring signals from a previously unknown "dark" satellite in orbit around Saturn for the past 90 days. According to government officials, the signals appear to be the first verified transmission from an alien civilization.

China's leading astrobiologist, Dr. Xi Chang, a graduate of MIT, told Xinhua that "the sigal repeats itself continuosly in 2 minute long sequences and appears to be the four bases of the genetic code A,G, U and C that ribosomes must convert messenger RNA sequences into proteins and the twenty different amino acids that proteins are comprised of."

Dr. Rosie Redfield, the newly appointed director of the Astrobiology Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, confirmed China's discovery this morning. In a press release Redfield said that "China's discovery has monumental consequences, and has been shared with the world's premier scientific institutions for vetting and peer review. If confirmed this will be the first proof of extraterrestrial life in the universe and confirmation that our DNA basis for life may be universal throughout the known universe."

"The genetic code," Redfield, explained, "allows an organism to translate the genetic information found in its chromosomes into usable proteins. Stretches of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are built from four different nucleotide bases, while proteins are made from twenty unique subunits called amino acids. This numerical disparity presents an interesting problem: How does the cell translate the genetic information in the four-letter alphabet of DNA into the twenty-letter alphabet of protein? The conversion code is called the genetic code.

"The information transfer from DNA to protein, called gene expression, occurs in two steps. In the first step, called transcription, a DNA sequence is copied to make a template for protein synthesis called messenger ribonucleic acid -messenger RNA, or mRNA. During protein synthesis, ribosomes and transfer RNA (tRNA) use the genetic code to convert genetic information contained in mRNA into functional protein. Formally speaking, the genetic code refers to the RNA-amino acid conversion code and not to DNA, though usage has expanded to refer more broadly to DNA.

"Mathematics reveals the minimum requirements for a genetic code. The ribosome must convert mRNA sequences that are written in four bases—A, G, U, and C—into proteins, which are made up of twenty different amino acids. A one base to one amino acid correspondence would code for only four amino acids (4 1 ). Similarly, all combinations of a two-base code -for example, AA, AU, AG, AC, etc.- will provide for only sixteen amino acids (4 2 ). However, blocks of three RNA bases allow sixty-four (4 3 ) combinations of the four nucleotides, which is more than enough combinations to correspond to the twenty distinct amino acids. So, the genetic code must use blocks of at least three RNA bases to specify each amino acid. This reasoning assumes that each amino acid is encoded by the same size block of RNA."

Redfield added that NASA expects a more detailed press conference to be held at the White House later today or tomorrow, pending announcement from the Obama administration. Dr. Dimitri Kardashev of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that… "This discovery comes as no surprise to me. It was always just a matter of time. The Earth is only some four billion years old. Our universe is some 14 billion years old. There may be millions of advanced technological civilizations that are billions of years older than ours. Keep in mind that the radio was only invented 120 years ago. Quantum computers and singularity are at most two or three generations distant. The technologies of ET civilizations a million years old and older are beyond our comprehension."

Sir Martin Rees, a leading Cambridge University cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England, said: “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

If verified, China's startling announcement means you don't need a miracle to arrive at the chemical cocktail for early life, just a decently large asteroid with the right components. That's all. The entire universe could be stuffed with life, from the earliest prebiotic protein-a-likes to fully DNAed descendants. The path from one to the other is long, but we've had thirteen and a half billion years so far and it's happened at least once.

The other ten amino acids aren't as easy to form, but they'll still turn up - and the process of "stepwise evolution" means that once the simpler systems work, they can grab the rarer "epic drops" of more sophisticated chemicals as they occur - kind of a World of Lifecraft except you literally get a life when you play. And once even the most sophisticated structure is part of a replicating organism, there's plenty to go round.

It's no accident that we see stars in the sky, says famed Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins: they are a vital part of any universe capable of generating us. But, as Dawkins emphasizes, that does not mean that stars exists in order to make us. "It is just that without stars there would be no atoms heavier than lithium in the periodic table," Dawkins writes in The Ancestors Tale -A Pilgramage to the Dawn of Evolution, "and a chemistry of only three elements is too impoverished to support life. Seeing is the kind of activity that can go on only in the kind of universe where what you see is stars."

China's discovery puts an end to the questions of whether DNA is inevitable as the foundation for the coding of life, or has life started with DNA in only one place in the solar system and then spread among the livable habitats through panspermia. Microbial life can land on and seed another planet, thereby not requiring that you have to create life from scratch multiple times and in multiple places. It is the relentless shifting and mutating of DNA, says Dennis Overbye of The New York Times, that generates the raw material for evolution to act on and ensures the success of life on Earth and beyond. Dr. Paul Davies co-director of the Arizona State University Cosmology Initiative "that some sections of junk DNA seem to be markedly resistant to change, and have remained identical in humans, rats, mice, chickens and dogs for at least 300 million years."

China's epic announcement may show that DNA is the cosmic code for life in the universe… or is it possible that there's are alien, unknown foundations?

China may be using supercomputers similar to those at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in the USA, where Sukanya Chakrabarti has developed a mathematical method uncover “dark” satellites. When she applied this method on a more vast scale to our Milky Way galaxy, Chakrabarti discovered a faint satellite might be lurking on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth, approximately 300,000 light-years from the galactic center.

The technique involves an analysis of the cold atomic hydrogen gas that comprises the outskirts of a large spiral galaxy’s disk. This cold gas is gravitationally confined to the galactic disk and extends much further out than the visible stars—sometimes up to five times the diameter of the visible spiral. This gas can be mapped by radio telescopes.

With the help of NERSC systems, she successfully validated her method by analyzing the radio observations of the Whirlpool Galaxy, which has a visible satellite one-third of its size, and NGC 1512, which has a satellite one-hundredth its size. Her calculations correctly predicted the mass and location of both of the known satellite galaxies.


Posted from a hot tip from our field operative, agent 87… from the original article at The Daily Galaxy.